When it comes to disasters, there is no economic discrimination. Storms, fires, floods or earthquakes have no particular zip codes in mind when ravishing areas where people live, work and play. Even with the best preparations or plans, when disasters occur, it is the unforeseeable issues that arise that need to be addressed as swiftly and expediently as humanly possible.
Hurricane Irma affected all areas of Miami-Dade County, especially due to widespread power outages. For almost a week after the storm, there were areas left without electricity or the ability to live with some level of normalcy. Some areas of power outages were exasperated by the critical needs of its residents.
Our most vulnerable populations, our seniors and those with meager means, were left to fend for themselves for at least three days until the community was able to help each other. Government is part of that community.
We cleared main roadways so that those with recovery efforts, including fuel for generators, could get in and out of our streets. We placed public transportation back on the roads to get people to grocery stores.
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We provided food to our senior homes that we had direct jurisdiction over meal programs. We provided ice and water to many of our elderly apartments and created a staging area for all the community to pick-up ice. We helped coordinate food distributions through the Red Cross and the Southern Baptist Conference and then we relied on our community partners.
It was through these partnerships that I witnessed the humanity and resiliency of our community. Churches, community based organizations, homeowners associations and just good ole’ neighbors helping neighbors stepped in to provide much needed services to our most vulnerable populations.
I felt a sense of urgency and then relief as I traveled throughout my district attempting to provide help and navigate resources, but still stumbling upon pockets of the community that felt the severity of the storm and had not quickly recovered from its rage.
Could we have done more? In my opinion, yes.
I believe the county did an excellent job in preparing our residents and visitors for the storm. I believe we made sure that there was ample notice and that we didn’t take the potential impact of the storm for granted. I believe we opened shelters and the residents that needed shelter were served.
However, the aftermath strategies could have been sounder. Especially in populations that rely on government assistance already.
There are many takeaways from this experience that we must immediately address. I believe there is not one entity that should take credit, nor one entity that should take the blame.
All of Miami-Dade County was impacted in one way or another. Hurricane Irma created many inconveniences for us all. No one particular community was damaged more than another, but we realize in the aftermath that certain communities suffered more.
It is imperative that our new plan map out strategic ways to address the needs of our most vulnerable communities.
As one resident pointedly said at a recent public hearing, “All shoes are not the same size,” and I would add, nor bare the same cost to recover.
Audrey Edmonson is Vice Chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners.